The fourth installment in Farmer’s Riverworld series, wherein the source of the alien power that has resurrected all of humanity (we’re like the stock market – one minute we’re down, then we’re up!) on a distant planet is finally discovered. SPOILER ALERT: it was aliens with a resurrection machine. They wanted to test Earthlings’ morality, and we failed said test, scoring just above an immoral species of flatworm from Antares IV which befriends you only so it can bang your sister. Also, the clocks go ahead this weekend, so remember to change the batteries in your spoiler-alerter.

On a scale of famous labyrinths ranging from the Pac Man board to Minotaur’s hideout, this book is: the hedge maze from ‘The Shining’.

RIP, PJF.


A medieval village is transported to a technologically-advanced planet, where 12th century weaponry and terrestrial cunning miraculously defeat hoards of laser-toting aliens. This book proves that Earth is the USA of the galaxy – EARTH! EARTH! EARTH! – because we kick ass and take names. And that ain’t easy, because alien names are hard to spell, and our limited knowledge of xenobiology often makes finding their asses difficult. Recommended.

On a scale of medieval weapons ranging from the misericorde to the scramaseax, this book is: the zweihander.

Cheech and Chong's favourite book. Because, you see, they like marijuana.

Few founders of religions were as skilled and prolific authours as L. Ron Hubbard. Jesus wrote one book, and He’s been milkin’ it for two thousand years. Bhudda scribed some semi-pithy stuff, but nothing I’d buy in hardcover. And while Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki’s series of novels about teenage babysitters who also run a detective agency is passable, it’s mostly ghostwritten by Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo. Hubbard’s the way to go. And if you’re going with Hubbard, give Final Blackout a try.

On a scale of famous Scientologists ranging from Edgar Winter to Tom Cruise, this book is: Beck.

In Mexico they call him ‘El Ron Hubbard’.

Before H.G. Wells became morbidly obese and started doing wine commercials, he wrote this book, in which two 19th century Londoners journey to our nearest celestial neighbor. A celestial neighbor, by the way, is good to have when you leave Earth on vacation and need someone to water your plants. Anywho, they discover a highly complex society living beneath the barren lunar surface, like we all kinda knew they would. With its blend of spirited adventure and heady social commentary, The First Men In The Moon is a story everyone can enjoy. Well, almost everyone; conspiracy theorists believe this entire book was a hoax staged by the Nixon administration to draw attention away from the war in Vietnam. Recommended.

On a scale of people mentioned in the Neil Diamond song ‘Done Too Soon’ ranging from Genghis Khan to Ho Chi Minh, this book is: H.G. Wells.

In your face, Armstrong!

A brawny space hunk and coquettish space gal become stranded on Jupiter. Despite their close quarters, mutual attraction and torn, revealing clothing, they manage to hold their instincts in check until they’re rescued and can be married by a space captain. Although corny, this book is a quaint throwback to the days when grown men and women apparently lacked genitalia of any kind. Today, of course, teens stranded on Jupiter are involved in rainbow parties, borealis bangs and other meteorological sex acts at no older than fourteen. And that’s just hot wrong.

On a scale of space operas ranging from Space Tosca to The Magic Space Flute, this book is: The Barber Of Seville, And Also Of Space.

Yeah, you know me!


When Eddie Riceburger created Tarzan, he wanted nothing more than to couch the notion that blacks are cannibalistic savages and whites are the representatives of all things decent and humane in a simple story everyone could enjoy. Nearly a century later, we’re still witnessing the effects of the titular character’s popularity in everything from Ravi Shankar’s hilarious novelty song ‘Sitarzan’, to Tarzan brand nostril groomers (“Because It’s A Jungle In There!”). That being said, this book is boring as hell and hard to follow without a Phil Collins soundtrack.

On a scale of writers with three names ranging from Louisa May Alcott to Bret Easton Ellis, this book is: John Knowles.

Welcome to the jungle! (Seriously. There's vines and stuff.)

A planet from deep space is on a crash course with Earth (Crash Course With Earth is also the name of an awesome Sammy Hagar solo album), threatening the extinction of life as we know it. Meanwhile, a group of scientists plot to escape to safety in a huge rocket, because scientists are pussies who piss their panties at the premise of total annihilation. Go ahead, wimps. I’ll be here drinking king cans of Bud and singing along with the title track from Crash Course With Earth:Oh, we’re on a (two three) craaaaash course with Earth, so get your rocks on! Yes, we’re on a (two three) craaaaash course with Earth, so keep on rockin’ on!’ Fuckin’ A.

On a scale of explosive disasters ranging from the Hindenburg to Nagasaki, this book is: my bum after tacos.

Kiss your security deposit goodbye.

This book was released in Europe as The Kraken Wakes. A better title would’ve been The Reader Sleeps. It’s essentially the story of sea monsters attacking the world told through a series of press conferences, newspaper articles, breakfast table conversations and…even this…terse synopsis…is making me….drowsy.

On a scale of deep-sea maladies ranging from an earache to the bends, this book is: mild swimmer’s itch.

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Throw it back.

Mrs. Sudak’s previous 23 books, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O (co-authoured with Amy Tan and nominated for the 1997 Chilean National Prize for Literature), P, Q, R, S, T, U, V and W failed to garner her any real commercial success. But X is a winner. It’s about a man with X-Ray eyes who can see through anything. If I had powers like that I’d stare through my sexy neighbor’s bedroom wall, because she’s got a 52-inch plasma TV in there. Yeah, that’s it. Watch that Seinfeld rerun. You like it when Kenny Banya does that, don’t you?

On a scale of rays ranging from X-Rays to gamma rays, this book is: Ray Liota.

"Got any gum? And don't you dare lie to me!"

At first, this book was irritating. Gibson seemed to be trying just a little too hard to remind the reader that it was set in the not-too distant future. Like, he abbreviates the word ‘claustrophobic’ to ‘claustro’ and passes it off as not-too-distant-future language; this is the linguistic equivilant of a one-piece silver jumpsuit. Even the font seemed obnoxious: Futura. Using Futura in a book about the future breaks an ironclad rule of design: never print a book in a font named after the subject matter (I have yet to receive any interest in my biography of insane Bavarian type cutter Zapf Dingbat). But, by the end, I had to admit it had grown on me: (to the tune of the ‘By Mennen’ jingle) ‘Bill GIB-son!’

On a scale of cocktails ranging from the Rob Roy to the Pink lady, this book is a: Gibson.

Did you get those font jokes or am I wasting my time here?

Future England: London has broken up into city states that are at constant war, and eventually there’s a great bloody melee and everyone dies (melee weapons only give you +4 strength, after all, and leave you vulnerable to ice magic).   This book is full of the kind of humor that can only be described as ‘dry’. Actually, ‘dry’ isn’t the word; more like ‘desiccated’. Desiccated, not-very-funny humour. Regardless, it’s described as a ‘comic novel’ and was met with great enthusiasm when it debuted at Comic Novel-icon 1904 in San Diego. To this day a huge contingent of cosplay fans dress up as G.K. Chesterton, and are savagely and contemptuously beaten by other nerds, thus proving that even the lowest and most pitiful tiers of society are carefully structured.

On a scale of Hugh Grant films ranging from Notting Hill to Notting Hill II: Bigger And Notting-er, this book is: Notting Hill III: The Search For Curly’s Gold (by far the best of the trilogy).

The funky Notting Hill shit.

The Earth drifts through a cloud of poisonous ether, kind of a galactic SBD, and the entire planet becomes a giant, stifling Dutch oven. And not the good kind that children from the Netherlands gather ‘round for fresh-baked stroopwafles, either. Beneath the pall of this worldwide air biscuit, a small group of survivours who have smelt it attempt to figure out who dealt it. Did God cut one? Did Fate have chilli for dinner and forget to crack a window? And will whatever malicious cosmic force supplied it ultimately deny it? A thought-provoking novella about life, humanity and really bad gas.

On a scale air quality index ratings ranging from Good to Hazardous, this book is: Unhealthy For Sensitive Groups.

Toxic trousers sold separately.

A ragtag group of Earthlings display a clear bias towards Earth as they battle a hoard of horribly horrific aliens known as the Medusae. I love ‘30s scifi’s description of facial expressions. Jaws are ‘set stonily’.  Eyes ‘twinkle impishly’. And people don’t smile – they only display a ‘grim rictus’. Still, this novel is just plain ol’ scifi fun, with characters getting into more scrapes than a prostitute’s abortionist and a deux ex machina on hand to help them whenever the reality of their predicament seems to be closing in. And if that doesn’t put a grim rictus on your face, I don’t know what will.

On a scale of legion-y things ranging the Legion of Super Heroes to The French Foreign Legion, this book is: the daemon Legion (Mark 5:9).

Legion_of_space

Many of them suffered from Space Legionnaire’s Disease.

 

Many people confuse this book with John Steinbeck’s East Of Eden, and there are similarities. Like Steinbeck’s work, Harrison’s tale is set on a prehistoric Earth where dinosaurs never went extinct and evolved into sentient creatures that compete with humans for survival. The protagonists of both works ride a triceratops into battle. And both books depict rough reptile-on-human intercourse, which I’m not certain is possible, although I’m not a doctor.

On a scale of technologically advanced reptiles ranging from Mecha Gojira to Bahamut Zero, this book is: cyborg Michigan J. Frog.

"Now we're WEST of Eden? Gimmie that goddamned map!"

This book follows the seamy exploits of a private detective in a futuristic Frisco where drugs are legal, animals can talk and criminals are cryogenically frozen and turned into sex slaves. ‘Great,’ you’re thinking, ‘ another one of those novels.’ Still, it’s pretty good. Letham effortlessly blends Philip K. Dick and Chandler (Phoebe, Ross and Rachel, however, fail to make an appearance) for a one-of-a-kind work of cyber-noir. BTW, ‘noir’ is just fancy talk for ‘black’. And, BTW, ‘BTW’ is just fancy talk for ‘by the way’. Recommended.

On a scale of ways to prepare eggs ranging from scrambled to poached, this book is: hard boiled.

Book, with frequent words.

A U.S. Marine travels to the red planet (Support Our Troops On Mars!) where he engages in a series of swashbuckling adventures amongst the locals. Personally, I find swashbuckling somewhat clumsy, and prefer to secure my swashes with something more convenient than a buckle. Although ‘a swash-Velcroing adventure’ doesn’t sound nearly as exciting.

On a scale of planets ranging from Ork to Melmac, this book is: Omicrom Persii 8.

Get your ass to Mars…get your ass to Mars…get your ass to Mars….

Y’know how there’s stuff people absolutely love, despite the fact it obviously sucks? Like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, U2 or democracy? That’s what this book is like. It’s about a race of telepathic superhumans called Slans, who are despised and persecuted by regular humans because of their abilities. They’re basically the Asian math students of the future. Scifi fans absolutely jizz in their 44-waist Wranglers over this novel, but they should clench their urethras and hang onto it, because Slan is way overrated.

On a scale of Slan crimes ranging from Slan Theft Auto to Slanslaughter, this book is: Slander.

‘Darn dry cleaner shrunk my space pants.’

This book follows a colony of exploratory ants as they make their way through the world, observing and cataloguing its many other species and fighting rival colonies (the most notable fight being dubbed ‘The Thrilla On The Hill-A’). Viewing the world with compound eyes, Grove poses some interesting philosophical questions (when ants are up high, what do the people below look like?) but the funniest part of the story is the constant scorn and pity ants feel for humans. Apparently, we’re unorganized, inefficient and our mandibles are laughably small. On the other hand, we don’t scream and yell ‘RAAAAAAID!’ in a comically exaggerated fashion whenever we see a can of bug spray.

On a scale of ant segments ranging from the alitrunk to the gaster, this book is: the petiole.

Consider them considered.

This is the third installment in Farmer’s Riverworld series, in which an all-star cast of both real people (Hermann Goring) and imaginary (Jesus) are resurrected on a mysterious planet and join forces to discover its secrets. Kinda makes you think about what you’d do if you met Herman Goring and Jesus. Personally, I’d say ‘Your life’s work is inspiring to me,’ and walk away, leaving the two of them to figure out who I was talking to. Anywho, the Dark Design is engaging, entertaining and (dare I say it?) illuminating. No. I’d better not. That’s just what they’ll be expecting me to say.

On a scale of third installments of things ranging from Return Of The Jedi to Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater, this book is: Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits, Volume 3.

You Philip Jose Farmer, you brought her.

Crompton Divided: A novel written by Robert Sheckley. About a man with different personalities. He takes a big trip. On a space ship. And starts a story that’s exceptionally well-knit. This guy’s certifiably a schitzo. But he’s gonna try to cure himself of it, though. The authour goes off on a tangent like that. With a style that’s in its very own class. The writing is the best. Ain’t no tellin’ when he’s down for a plot twist. There’s a dénouement to keep y’all reading. Cuz you don’t know where the story is leading. The novel is exciting but it doesn’t end well. Cuz the protagonist is crazy as hell. The voices in his head revile and haunt him, but by the final chapter, they’re driven straight out of Crompton.

On a scale of things you can use to keep cool during the summer ranging from air conditioning to an oscillating fan, this book is: ice cubes.

Sheckley: Novelist with attitude.

A meteor made of gold and worth billions careens towards Earth, sending everyone into a panic. Alas, they are helpless to prevent it, and can only stare, open-mouthed, at the magnificent golden shower about to rain down on them. This novel uses the anarchic profanity ‘zounds’ more than 23 times, making it the Scarface of its day, which explains why it is the most quoted Jules Verne book in hip-hop. Recommended.

On a scale of things Goldfinger does ranging from beckoning you to enter his web of sin to pouring golden words in your ear, this book is: telling you lies that can’t disguise what you fear.

Jules and gold.

An American, an Irishman and a Russian battle an ancient culture in the South Pacific that worships a god they call ‘The Shining One’. I love it! Who do you see playing the lead? The Rock? I love it! Can we get Michael Bay to direct? We can? I love it! Can John Williams score it? Can we cross-promote with Pepsi? Can we hire that catering company that makes the spicy peanut saytay? Love it! Love it! Love it!  What’s that? The book? Oh, I hated it. Total snooze fest.

On a scale of moon things ranging from Moon Pies to Atari’s Moon Patrol, this book is: Sun Myung Moon.

Guests must shower before using the Moon Pool.

A man travels five hundred thousand years into the future (imagine the frequent flyer miles he’d get!) to an era where telepathic amphibians rule the planet. Amphibians would be terrible leaders – they’re always flip-flopping on the whole ‘live on land or live in the water’ issue. Plus, they store their emails on personal servers, which is the very worst thing a leader anywhere can do – if a leader does this, vote for their opposition, no matter what.

On a scale of worlds below us ranging from Hell to Australia, this book is: Hellstralia.

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This book is beneath you.